Australia's First Mission to the Moon
According to a media release by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Federal Government has reached an agreement with the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for an Australian-built rover to be included in a future mission to the Moon.
The semi-autonomous rover will attempt to collect lunar soil, while NASA will extract oxygen from the soil using separate equipment. This is a critical step on the way to establishing a long-term human presence on the Moon, as well as to support missions to Mars.
Made in Australia, by Australians
Australian firms and researchers will work together to design and construct the rover. The effort will be backed by a $50-million funding facility through the Government’s Moon to Mars initiative.
The mission is expected to showcase Australia's world-class remote operations and autonomous systems capabilities. It will also draw from the country’s expertise in the mining sector.
Economic growth, more jobs
According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Australia’s mission to the Moon will contribute to growing the Australian economy, support its COVID-19 recovery, and create more jobs for Australians.
PM Morrison added:
“This is an incredible opportunity for Australia to succeed in the global space sector, and is central to our Government’s vision to secure more jobs and a larger share of the growing space economy.”
“By 2030, we want to triple the size of our space sector – adding $12 billion to our economy and creating up to 20,000 new, high-skilled jobs – providing more opportunities for Australians and industries.
“Our Government has invested more than $700 million in the civil space sector since July 2018, supporting core industries including manufacturing, robotics, engineering, mining and resources.
“This mission to the Moon is just one exciting way that we can create opportunity and jobs for the future, and our Government will ensure Australians reap the benefits.”
New era in space capabilities
The Minister for Science and Technology, Melissa Price, said the milestone agreement will take the Australian space sector to a “new era”.
Minister Price added:
“With our expertise in robotics technology, NASA wants to partner with us on this project to the Moon, creating our own lunar history.”
“As well as putting Australia front and centre for scientific discoveries, our $50 million in support gives Australian businesses and researchers the opportunity to contribute to NASA’s mission to the Moon and beyond.
“It will build the Australian space sector’s capability and capacity and showcase Australia’s strengths to the world, as well as inspire a whole new generation of young people to enter careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.”
World-leading remote operations
Australian Space Agency Head, Enrico Palermo, believes the mission will demonstrate the country’s world-leading skills and experience in remote operations, leveraging its expertise in the resources and mining sector.
Mr. Palermo added:
“Australia is at the cutting-edge of robotics technology and systems for remote operations, which are going to be central to setting up a sustainable presence on the Moon and eventually supporting human exploration of Mars.”
“This agreement will leverage our expertise in remote operations to grow our space sector here at home, while developments that come from preparing for space will make sure our resources sector keeps powering ahead too.”
Assisted by NASA
According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the agreement will bolster the long-time relationship between the United States and Australia in terms of space exploration. Mr. Nelson explains that such a relationship goes back more than half a century to the days of the Apollo programme.
Mr Nelson added:
“By working together with the Australian Space Agency and our partners around the world, NASA will uncover more discoveries and accomplish more research through the Artemis program.”
NASA has agreed to send the rover to the Moon as early as 2026 if it passes evaluation criteria during its development.